This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 05, 2007

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dropped 1.5% in 2006, Says EIA

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions declined by 1.5% in 2006 to the equivalent of 7,075.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). The drop was mainly due to a 1.8% decline in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use and industrial processes, which is a half-percent larger decline than originally estimated by EIA back in June. Part of that decline was a 0.5% decrease in overall energy demand, caused partly by mild weather and partly in response to high energy prices. But the lion's share of the decline was caused by a decline in the carbon intensity of electric generation, in other words, power plants are producing less carbon dioxide. That's partly due to an increased use of natural gas for power production, but it's also caused by "a greater reliance on non-fossil fuel energy sources," including renewable energy.

While U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2006, the economy actually grew by 2.9%. That, in turn, caused greenhouse gas intensity—the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of gross domestic product—to decrease by 4.2%, a fact that caught the attention of President Bush. Greenhouse gas intensity is now 625 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per million 2000 constant dollars of GDP, while President Bush has set a goal to reach 553.7 metric tons by 2012. "This puts us well ahead of the goal," said President Bush. See the EIA press release; the White House press release; and the full report (PDF 1.3 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The EIA results give credence to a new report from McKinsey & Company, which concludes that the United States can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 4,500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. The report finds that about 40% of these emissions cuts would involve energy efficiency improvements that would generate net economic benefits over their lifetime. These benefits could help offset the costs of more expensive options, including a shift to more efficient power plants and a greater use of renewable energy. Another major finding is that there is no silver bullet: no one technology or approach can yield deep cuts in emissions. See the McKinsey report.